29th July 2016 at 00:00

That Richard McCourt, one half of television presenting duo Dick and Dom, achieved a good grade in GCSE geography despite having fun in lessons is worthy of report but comes as no surprise (“Dick and Dom’s masterclass in making mischief at school”, Insight, 22 July).

Almost every year that I taught (incidentally, also as a geographer), students had fun and let off steam by ragging me rather than their other teachers. Yet, over a 30-year period, my students’ O-level and GCSE results were on average about half a grade higher than in their other subjects. At the very least, softer teachers can be just as effective as their slightly stricter colleagues.

Anthony Silson


Give Greening a chance (for now…)

Jonathan Simons is absolutely right (“Give poor Justine a bit of time to settle into her job”, Whispers from Westminster, July 22). If the new education secretary had made any promises or commitments immediately on taking office, she would have been savaged for making policy on the hoof without adequate preparation or thought.

On this issue, at least, she ought to have our sympathy. Time will tell whether she should retain it.

Colin Richards


Local is vital in governance

Jacqueline Baxter is absolutely right that the “notion of local knowledge is vital to good governance” (“Schools now ask governors: what can you offer us?”, Insight, 22 July). Her findings chime with what we are uncovering in a new scoping study at the Royal Society of Arts, Governance in the Academies Age, which reports this autumn.

Our fear is that we have allowed the appropriate and necessary search for a more professional approach to governance to blind us to the fact that this sort of expertise may already exist on our doorstep and in our communities. It may also have led to misguided questions about the role of parent (and staff) governors in the process.

The loss or marginalisation of local (and not just parental) voice is something we should be concerned about for two reasons. First, local governors do much more than just govern: they give voice to, provide insight from and enhance connectedness with the community. Second, the post-White Paper rush to a particular form of “MAT-isation” threatens a distancing of governance from the governed, and with this a genuine loss of influence and engagement that may make governance itself less attractive.

These outcomes, as we shall argue in our report, are not inevitable, and the new terrain may offer advantages over what has gone before. But the prospect of a newly detached, albeit professionalised, governance system has, as Dr Baxter’s research makes very clear, sounded a warning bell. We ignore it at our peril. The challenge is to frame models of governance in our schools, and across all of our public services, that are not exclusively local or professional, but both.

Dr Tony Breslin

Project lead for Governance in the Academies Age, Royal Society of Arts

Technology requires careful screening

I taught briefly in a sparkly new academy a couple of years ago that had heavily subsidised iPads for all staff and students but no IT control or any decent policy or training about how to use them in the classroom.

This resulted in endless battles, with students playing games and other inappropriate usage. The school policy was confiscation, which meant that you regularly had half a class without an iPad, making activities impossible – not to mention the parents we knew full well had taken the iPad for their own personal use, and the apparent targeting of kids in our school uniform by muggers.

It is essential that we teachers embrace modern technology, but sometimes we can all be guilty of seeing something as a quick fix and not really making it work (“Should we let children be screen and not heard?”, 15 July). Well done to Steve Eddison for staying firm.

Lyn Lockwood


Facebook users on half of teachers losing a fortnight or more of their summer break to work


“There’s no way I’d be ready for September if I didn’t spend a considerable amount of the holiday working.”


“It’s all right saying ‘you don’t get paid for it’, but if you don’t mark work or plan lessons then you aren’t doing your job and will get sacked.”


“I’ve been teaching for 19 years in primary schools and never not worked in the holidays.”


And on parental misbehaviour


“It comes from the government and their use of the media to undermine the profession for a myriad of reasons, none of them for the benefit of children. ”


“I blame the sense of entitlement and over-the-top political correctness that has been slowly getting worse.”


“Some parents cannot accept that their child is not perfect. In their eyes, the child must be telling the truth and the teacher lying.”


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